Here are the winners of the 1997 Flyfish@ fiction contest, both prose and poetry.
The Edge by Mike LivingstonThere was no smile on his face this morning. They didn't come much anymore. Smiles, real smiles at least, come from down deep, from that place no man really understands or can really find. They're just there and you don't know why and it isn't really one of those things that is important except when it just isn't there anymore. He didn't know how to get it back. The sun on his shoulder held a moist heat that should have felt good on his sore muscles, but it was clammy and somehow sour. The hike in had been for over two miles, and while the morning started cold, as he hiked up the mountain to the part of the stream he wanted to fish, the sweat had soaked through his cotton shirt making it cling wetly to hisskin. The buds on the trees were swelling, but the branches clung to the damp gray of late winter, which was highlighted against the background of the sky that was that pale blue that is somehow neutral and not welcomed. He missed the first rise to the fly as it passed against the tips of the grass that drooped into the stream along the far bank. He had hoped being alone in the mountains would help. There was still a spark, a chance he might feel better, feel like he could get up tomorrow, go to work and find the time less deadening. He needed focus. A few trout had always helped. He lifted the line off the water softly, popped a few false casts before straightening it out a couple of feet above the riffle where it narrowed between two rocks. Even lacking concentration, he knew that spot would hold a trout. The fly rocked through the rough water, and just as it began to smooth out there was a splash. He lifted softly and felt the tenacious tug that was there and then was gone just as the splash had dissolved back into the fast water. "Brookie" he said aloud softly, somehow needing to hear it as well as say it even though there were only Brookies in this water and there was no one else to hear the words. He cast again, but laid the fly too far into the current and the pressure of the water on the tippet quickly dragged the fly across the feeding lane. A shadow darted upstream through the pool above and slipped under the rock near the heart of the pool. Time to move upstream. He climbed up the bank and as was his practice, moved into the woods to keep his shadow from the water to offer a cushion to his footsteps which could easily spook these wild trout. He could feel it happening. The focus. It was coming, growing a little. There was hope. At first he had been sorry he would waste a day that was sure to have ended poorly, but somehow the water and the fish were moving it toward worthwhile. And being alone was key. He knew that. At work there were people everywhere, demands from all directions. Distractions. The last thing he wanted was more people. This mountain stream was elixir. The next pool was smaller and with no dominant rock in the center as had the last. There was a small drop, where the water fell a foot or so from the pool above. He knew beneath that plunge there would be a nice trout probably feeding on nymphs. He didn't want to change from the dry fly because the visible attack helped the focus, and somehow he knew his focus was not yet at the point where he would be likely to see the hit on a nymph. The fly stretched out on the right side of the plunge where there was a back eddy, and as he watched the fly enter the circular flow, there was a splash, smaller than the ones earlier, but even so he knew before he felt it that this was a better fish. He tightened the short rod against the thrash of panic, the contest of life or death, at least for the trout which could not know he would release it back to its now disturbed sanctuary. He brought in the painted fish, and wet his hand in the cold water before twisting the fly from the fish's mouth. He felt a smile try to come as the trout raced back to cover, undoubtedly feeling it had managed its own escape. Progress. He studied the other side of the pool. He waited a moment to rest the pool, and pulled his pipe out of his vest and twisted open the tin of English tobacco. He only smoked when he fished these days, and somehow he enjoyed it that much more. The strong rich smoke tasted warm and solid as the flame was sucked into the bowl. He held the extinguished wooden match a moment and then slipped it back into the box, not wanting to leave any trace of his presence. Part of being alone on a stream is not seeing the sign of others having been there, so he did not want his trash to ruin it for others. His shirt was now dry, and the dampness from his perspiration was gone, now replaced by the good warmth of spring. A breeze rubbed trees together making that sound that was both soothing and ominous at the same time. After a few thoughtful draws on the pipe, he punched his fly into the left corner of the pool, and laid the fly line across some rocks on the side to minimize the likelihood of repeating the drag that had spooked the trout between the rocks. He could really feel the focus now. Again a splash, and a second Brookie came to hand and dashed off when it sensed freedom. The stockers of other streams often sulked away as if unaware of the severity of the threat from the human predator, or they stole away with the cynicism of an old trout that already knew the game. Wild Brookies were sparks of fire; stockers slow smoldering embers. He slid away from the stream bank and moved toward the next pool. The aloneness was soothing as he pulled fish from the pools as he walked further and further from the road where he had parked. A half mile or so from where he had started fishing he stopped, and climbed partway up the hillside to a rock that protruded from the wooded hillside. It would be a good place for lunch. There had been no one else on this stream, and the resulting quiet was the best thing. The quiet that was not silence, and was not commotion, but was mending. The mountains had sounds to consume the senses, solid sounds, loud sounds, but not noise. He was at the edge of a smile. As he stuffed the sandwich bags back into their pocket in his vest, he loaded his pipe once again, packing the crumpled tobacco into the bowl with his finger so it would be tight enough to burn well. He did not light the pipe, but leaned against the rock on his perch above the stream and closed his eyes. A muscle twitch awoke him, but not fully. He was aware of the woods and that he had been sleeping, but he knew it had only been a few moments. But there was something new, something that had not been there before, not ominous or threatening, but not wanted. It was the sound of distant footsteps and laughter. He didn't want to open his eyes, but he knew it was coming closer. The edge of a smile was fading. When he finally opened his eyes, he knew the noise was kids, and it was noise, racket, not something he wanted. There were several of them, six, and there was an adult too. They were invaders. Invaders in his world, even more than he himself had been an invader of this mountain and this stream. But then maybe it wasn't so different. He sat quietly on his perch above the stream and through squinted eyes, as if squinting could somehow make him less visible, watched the intruders. They stopped at the pool he had fished before lunch, and he watched one of the boys remove his fly from the holder on the too big fiberglass fly rod. The boy, who was the tallest of the group except for the adult, would have trouble casting that giant rod in the tight cover of this stream. Twice he hung the fly in low branches, and twice he watched the youth walk over to remove it, mumbling, perhaps cursing the way young boys do when testing the edge of manhood. Finally a cast fell to the water in the center of the pool. From his perch on the rock, he uselessly stared at the spot where the youth's fly floated. Although he could see nothing, he thought he saw the same fly he had used the first time he caught one of these Brookies on a rod very much like the too long, too heavy fiberglass rod this youth was fishing. He couldn't see the fly, but somehow he felt certain it was one of those green sponge rubber legged spiders. As the fly approached the lip at the tail of the pool, the youth yanked hard and a diminutive Brookie took flight into a tree behind the young angler. He knew the wonderful, startled feeling of that young boy, because he had had it many years ago. The youth dropped the rod and ran back to the tree as if he was afraid the fish might still get away. He removed the hook and showed his friends briefly before putting the fish gently back into the water. His friends, partly in jealousy, partly with the genuine impatience of youth wanted to move on. The youth refastened his fly in the hook holder, and the group moved noisily upstream, splashing and throwing rocks into the water as they passed. There would be no more fishing. He lit his pipe as the sounds of the crowd faded, blending into the sounds of the mountains, and drew in patiently. He slipped on his vest, picked up his rod, and began the long trek back to the car. For the first time that day and for many days, he could feel the return of the smile. The Tarpon. by Hilary Thompson"I knew where she was to be found now. I have watched her and waited for her over many tides. I have often seen the glimmer of the tropical sun as it hammered her saucer sized scales when she rolled in shallow water at the edge of a mangrove lined channel. She returns, alone, to the same remote spot as each spring tide falls this summer. Now she will be mine! I will touch the silver medals arrayed on her vast flank and I will be raised up!" By the time I read these final words in my fathers waterlogged, green bound journal, which had been retrieved and brought to me by a friend of his, my father was dead. He was killed by his singular passion for this one great fish and his feeling for the environment it lived in. The coroner gave some indication that, at the end, he had been somewhat dehydrated, perhaps low on water for several days while camping and fishing alone and may have been hallucinating or delusional. I do not believe this. He may have suffered privations, but I knew the man. I believe that his ecstatic writing is due to his experience and to a true ecstasy induced in him, not hallucinations. My parents were divorced as long as I could remember, and from my earliest days, a trip to visit my father was a magical escape. All his pursuits and things were the stuff of wonder to me. I recall in particular one summer day, one day out of a wonderful summer of staying with him in Miami when I was six. We were in the keys, lying in the bottom of his small skiff, our chins propped on the side looking down into the clear water as we drifted over channels in the shallows between mangrove islands. We had enjoyed a day full of spotting tiny deer on remote keys, of trees full of red throated frigate birds, but the life in these channels, so clearly seen by quietly peeking into another world beneath our hull made the greatest impression on me. Spiny lobster waved their antennae, their carapaces fabulously colored and patterned. Snapping shrimp snapped their chelae to the beat of their own inner tides, anemones waved purple and yellow arms and sea slugs pulsated in a riot of colors. I dreamed along lost in that other, strange world beneath us until I received a shock, a big tarpon cruised under the drifting skiff and rolled right under our noses and shot away with a splash that splattered salt water into our eyes. The micro world I had been dreamily peeking into suddenly changed scale. "Damn', my father exclaimed. I had rarely heard him swear before. I echoed him: "damn", and my transgression went unpunished. The day changed after we saw the great fish, the sun beat down as hard, but somehow a coolness had enclosed us. In later years we would fish together often, he taught me as much as he could of all the skills and lore he had to impart. Certainly I was too poor a vessel to hold all he knew. He was a kind and patient teacher. I began fishing for jack crevalle, swift tough little fish running in silver schools in the channels around the bridges. I used a spinning rod and a silver spoon and sometimes I thought the jacks would pull me out of the boat or pull my arms off. We waded along mangroves after I had learned how to fly cast. I put a red and white seaducer as close as I could to the arching roots, hooking the tough stems and leaves often at first. On the last week of my summer vacation when I was 9 I hooked and landed my first fish on a flyrod. It was a snook. The water exploded and he ran several times against the arching rod. I had thought he would be a monster, and was a little hurt when my father said he was right at the legal limit of 18 inches and that we would let him go. Catch and release was not common in those days in the salt in South Florida, even at the legal limit. On other long remembered summer days we would roam the coral rock roads off of the Tamiami trail, baking, dusty and white like bones in the sun. We would stop and walk into the depths of a tropical hardwood hammock, deep in shade, spooky, religious places filled with a riot of life. I always had the sense I was watched in these places, by 1000 animal eyes and by the eye of God. We walked on deserted paved roads to canals where we fished for bass and baby tarpon, saw panther tracks and tree snails, orchids and air plants but only rarely another person. As I got older, my father and I drifted apart, or were pulled apart. Time for high school came. I wanted to go to live with my father and go to high school in Miami. I was gently persuaded away by 'sense' and promise of better colleges I could get into if I didn't go to high school in the South. Looking back I realize I would have emerged a very different man in that environment, not better or worse from my present view point, just very different. Perhaps I would have become the sort of man my father was back then, one who would take his son fishing instead of heading off to work. We only go one path in parts of our lives, things only happen one way. The other doors close as we walk past them, at least for that time. As I started school I went to Florida for my summers less. At first my father wrote me enthusiastic letters, and then he wrote less and less. The letters that did come became full of venom at the changes that were going on in South Florida, the destruction of the mangroves and the everglades, the endless construction, the industrial scale commercial fishing, the tides of tourists and new residents with no appreciation for the wonders around them. My father told tales of the changes, and complained about their impact on his business, but, as I realized much later, he never did anything about the environment. Instead he withdrew into his own world. After many years of not seeing my father I felt a need to see him. I went for Easter break during my last year of college before law school. My father was a changed man, or perhaps I perceived a new part of the man I had not known when I was a child. He spoke mostly of the changes in Florida, he showed me an old book, one from 1930 or so by a botanist; it was called "The Environmental Destruction of South Florida". "He knew it then" my father said with an intensity I found frightening " knew exactly what would happen here as soon as the Flaglers and Youngs hit the beach". He seemed angry all the time and I did not then understand where my once gentle father had gone . He took me out to a Cuban restaurant, run by Chinese people who spoke Spanish without R's. Then we went to a bar by Biscayne bay and sat at tables on the water and ate fried clams and drank beer. He gave me a cigar and I choked and coughed. "Easy", he said, "gentle and just swish the smoke in your mouth for the taste, don't inhale it deep like that, Christ that would choke Castro!". Everybody at the tables around laughed, at my green looks and sheepish grin as much as my Father's joke. We went out fishing during my visit that Easter. It was different, he was intense beyond my comprehension. I was no longer coddled along or treated as a child or a student but rather as an equal. I was alienated, left in the dust. He and Bob, a Florida Park Ranger and his fishing buddy who came along with us were like animals on the hunt. They sniffed the breeze and seemed to know where the fish would be found. A slight movement on the water surface spoke to them and I had never noticed it. They put me onto my first really large fish, a 55 pound tarpon. I hooked it on a big fluff of orange feather and hair on a 2/0 hook and a heavy 12 weight rod. My arm ached from casting and trying to be accurate with that enormous rod. I wasn't in practice with fly casting, my father was no longer kind or patient about this but bullied and berated me like I was a paying client. He had become a guide, one of the best in the Florida guide tradition of calling a spade a god-damned shovel. At his command I cast toward a daisy-chain of circling silver fish while he shouted instructions. "Strip!-Strip!! -Strip!!!" he cresendoed and one fish turned from his fellows and took the fly. During the first of many jumps by this fish my father thrust his fist, not gently, between my shoulder blades and shouted "Bow to him when he jumps, drop that rod tip!!". I got the idea quickly. After spinning, somersaulting leap after leap the fish went into deep water. I ached and thought I would just quit, just drop the rod and curl up in the bottom of the boat, so long and hard did he pull. After the first half hour and it became a see-saw tug of war for line between me and the fish. I felt little excitement but only relived and drained as the big silverside finally rolled on his side near the boat. He was at last lifted a bit with the lip gaff and declared mine. I slumped, aching, weak of body and spirit as both men went over the side to revive the fish. I was ignored until the fish was strong enough to thrust away on his own. My father pushed himself back into the boat and balanced it for Bob to do the same. My father threw a towel over my head and vigorously rubbed my head and shoulders as he used to when I was a child. I felt 6 again, limp, powerless and drained, under the power of others. The beer I was handed and the wind from the run back to the dock revived me and I felt different in that time, for those moments, different about everything in my life. I briefly felt I understood my father's anger and tirades about the loss of Florida. The insight was lost all too soon as I headed back to school. I was growing, changing in that time. I lost my sense for the elemental energy that my father had always put me in touch with. My mother and stepfather (both successful lawyers as I was to become) never spoke harshly of my father, but rather in an indirect manner as an anthropologist might of some interesting primitive. I lost touch with my father too. I learned later he fell on hard times in the guide business. He was not good at the people skills part and became less so as time went on. He got by on rod repairs and fly tying and a few loyal, highly skilled regular clients. He occupied a fugitive niche in the South Florida fishing scene, which became as the years went by more "scene" and less fishing. I was told that even his friends grew tried of his environmental Jeremiads, and he became increasing withdrawn. He spent much time alone, going out for days on the water, fishing and dreaming in a small open boat. At last he dreamed his end. Now I am sitting on the dock behind the little house he had at the last days of his life. A very comfortable little place, modest, isolated and almost paid for. The water of the canal slaps the bottom of his fishing boat which, unlike my father, has been returned to its home, now my boat and my home. I sip a beer of a last six pack he left in the refrigerator. The wind off the water smells good to me, I am waiting for ranger Bob to come over and tell me about my father's last solo fishing trip. I know that Bob will tell me about every detail of my father's last days, his preparation for his last trip, and what became of the great fish. Perhaps he would tell it in such a way that I could find for myself some meaning in his death. In the mean time my cell phone rings, it is long distance. I talk to one of the senior partners in my firm, he is distant but kind about my fathers death. I do not tell him I will return. He assures me my caseload will be shouldered by other partners seamlessly, "transparent to the clients, don't worry" I'm assured. I search my heart and am surprised to find I was not worried, but rather felt a rush of relief like the lancing of a boil. I have given something up rather suddenly. I have given up the thirst I felt for success, for the regard of others in that world. I know I have left it behind as I catch myself already thinking of the job, leased car and apartment I walked away from only yesterday as 'that world' no longer 'my world'. When I got the news my father was found dead, I looked up a friend from law school who practices environmental law in South Florida, when I spoke to him and told him I was coming down, he laughed and said "Good, you'll make a great partner". I didn't laugh, but arranged our meeting. I drop the phone in the water and sip the beer as I wait to hear the rest of the story of my father's obsessed hunt for the last great fish of his life. I have just arrived in town but have already heard rumors already that it was over two hundred pounds and would have been a world record on the fly rod. Thus do legends begin. I begin to wonder if the fish were real, if he really landed it, and if there are more like it out there... I realize my father's restless energy and love of the world is back in my life and I feel happy for a moment in the midst of my growing feeling of grief. Down the canal a tarpon rolls. One Day in the Life of Iam Desalmofich by Andrew NowlanIt was really just a jumbled mess. Muffled sensations. Nothing was definitive. Iam glanced up, it was a clear night sky. The soft light of the moon cast the scene in a calm, silver etched light. Iam was quite comfortable really; it was a cool 62 degrees. Iam was surveying the area before and above him from his station behind a medium sized rock. He was hungry, and there was nothing Iam liked more than a midnight snack! As beings go, Iam had reached the point where he tended to prefer the night life. When he was younger, he spent a lot of his energy during the day, but that was then, and this was now. So Iam waited. He had chosen this place with good reason. The rock gave him protection from his enemies and cover from detection by his quarry as he hunted for food. Iam was self sufficient. A wild thing that wouldn't like the idea of a cafeteria line even if he knew what one was. But he didn't, and that was probably for the best. Iam looked again towards the sky, and there he saw his next meal, emerging from the shadows like a messenger of the night. Iam liked this time of year, The beasts in the air were large and made for good hunting. And these in particular liked calm areas with little turbulence. Which was fine with Iam as that meant he did not have to spend the energy fighting the turbulence as well. Iam watched his prey. It faltered and fell from the air landing on the surface of the clam water like a snowflake in the stillness of a cold winter night sending the faintest of rings out from its landing point. With the bright night sky, Iam could clearly see the form of the giant mayfly. In a deliberate, precise expenditure of energy, Iam rose from his position behind the rock towards his target before the relentless flow of the water took his potential meal past. And with a delicate sip, Iam took the Hexegenia from the surface with nary a sound. Only a few rings in the water and the now missing mayfly revealed his action. He needed not worry about the bug taking flight once again. For some reason, Iam knew that the mayflies would not elude him once he could clearly see the wings of his targets stretched out to the side. It had been different at sunset though. Indeed, the evening had been quite active as some of these same kind of mayflies had been emerging from the silty bottom of his stream and headed to the surface. These mayflies had been active and he had to act fast in order catch them before they took flight. But now, the mayflies were lifeless bodies floating down the current. Easy pickings. As the depth of the night turned to early morning, long before dawn, the insects became very sparse in number. Just a few here and there. Iam waited for them and other morsels to come his way. Due to his size, Iam required it to be a substantial culinary delight before he moved to inspect it. Some little scud or Baetis nymph just didn't cut it anymore. Too much energy expended for too little gained. No, Iam preferred a meal of fish. Something with some meat on it's bones. Although, it was late June and these big Hexegenias served him well too! As morning approached, the eastern horizon began to lighten. Iam instinctively knew that soon he would have to surrender his post to the light of day. But not just yet. Dawn was not a bad time to eat either. So Iam remained behind his rock a while longer. As he was holding in the slack water behind the rock, Iam noticed a change. The water became cloudy, something had moved into the stream above him. Iam became cautious and he settled down to the bottom of the stream behind his rock. It was a little lighter now, and as he waited, he noticed a shadow in front of him. Some sort of beast that was surely not there to benefit him had come into view. Iam could see the beast's form on the bank of the stream. It was flailing about in a way that Iam thought more than just a little odd, so Iam retreated to a bend in his stream where the water actually flowed under the bank. Here, I am could wait the danger out. Let the beast pass and then he could safely resume his plans for the day. The beast came closer. Iam had seen this kind before. Fairly large, tall and slender. There was usually only one at a time and they tended not to hang around for too long. As he waited for the beast to pass, Iam noticed on the surface of the water a rather tasty insect floating down right towards him. It was in t he perfect place for him to grab, a quick easy meal. Iam started to head for the bug, but then saw the beast on the shore and decided he better wait for it to pass before he started to eat again. Many times Iam saw a similar bug float down just in the perfect place for him to grab. But each time Iam noticed that the beast on the shoreline was still there. Then, the beast moved on. Iam decided that the next time he saw a fly come down that current he would grab it. But the fly didn't come. How unfortunate it was that only while that beast was on the shoreline did those bugs float by. Oh well, Iam was watching. The bright sun was making its way into the sky. Soon, Iam would stop eating and rest for the day. But not just yet. There were more insects in and above the water. He could see a few on the surface, and although they were tempting, Iam chose to ignore them as the light of the day made him more vulnerable to predators that might be interested in him. Instead, Iam turned to the insects that had not yet reached the surface of the water. And Iam found many of these. Iam fed throughout the morning on these nymphs. The current would sweep them under the bank where he was and he would simply open his mouth and suck them in. Iam had eaten well since last night, and was now needing a time to rest a bit. As the sun reached high into the sky, the rays of light beat down into the flowing water. The light heated the water to a level that Iam was less comfortable with. This warming caused Iam to lose his appetite and become rather lazy. Iam held back underneath the bank of his bend in the river. There, he was sheltered from the sun and from predators. Here, Iam would rest for most of the day. Perhaps taking in some irresistible tidbit if it happened to float by just so. But for the most part, this was Iam's time to rest, and so he did. It was not until later in the day that Iam began to stir again. The sun was still shining and the water was still warm, but the light was losing its intensity and a coolness was returning to the air. The changing conditions sparked Iam to life. He knew that as the light levels decreased, he would be less visible to his prey. It was time to prepare to eat again. He had been resting in the stream for quite a while now without eating, and he was hungry. Iam moved out to the edge of his overhung bank. There were more insects about now and if some floated his way he was not opposed to taking them in. The light levels continued to decrease as the sun dipped behind the western horizon. Iam made his way to the his location behind the rock. He was in almost full feeding mode. There were lots of different things for him to chose from, mayflies of various sizes, midges, fish... But what he was really waiting for were those big monstrous mayflies again. He could see some of the nymphs of these big bugs and he put forth a little extra effort to get to them. Soon, the water, surface and air would be filled with these insects in one form or another and Iam planned to gorge himself on them. As dusk turned into night, just what Iam hoped for happened. The Hexegenias were everywhere. The greatest part about it was Iam hardly had to swim far from his spot to get one. He could wait for a dazed nymph to come floating down or he could rise to the surface and in a splashy scene inhale and unsuspecting victim from the surface. Iam did like to look these mayflies over though. They were so big, with there sail-like wings rising above them like some banner to there identification. But Iam didn't dwell too long, it was the nature of life for him to consume these bugs. Or was it simply that he was hungry and they were there. Down the current would float one of these stalled sailing vessels. The mayflies were still, waiting for their wings to dry before they could fly away. As dusk turned to night, Iam looked for the proper silhouette that identified these insects to him. He would spot the shadow, rise and with a quick glance to double-check the silhouette he would suck the insect down. Repeatedly Iam rose to the surface to feast. Down the current came another shadow. Up came Iam to inspect the prize, open his mouth and take the insect down. But this time, Iam missed something. As soon as he had the insect in his mouth and was headed back for his spot, he realized that what he had picked up was not like the others. He opened his mouth to spit whatever it was in his mouth back out. But before he could, whatever it was that was in his mouth bit into him! Iam was rocked with a sudden, piercing sensation in his mouth. Whatever it was he had taken from the surface had bit him. He dove for his protective bank but the impostor in his mouth bit back even harder. Desperately Iam tried to rid himself of whatever it was in his mouth but he couldn't do it. The impostor pulled him away from his bank. How could this little insect do this? Iam could not remember this happening before. Panic racked Iam as he forced every muscle in his sleek streamlined body to take him downstream. He tore through the water. He could sense his smaller brethren scurry for cover. His panic transferred to them. All that Iam could comprehend was this impostor in his mouth and try to resist its will as long as possible. But no matter which direction Iam tried to go, this impostor held him back, trying to take him in the other direction. Iam swam with his mouth open. Violently shaking it in a vain effort to dislodge whatever it was in his mouth. It wasn't working. Iam tried to run again, but the energy wasn't there and managed little distance. Iam was becoming tired. He did not have the energy to fight this force that had snared him in the mouth. Exhausted, Iam gave up. It was time to meet whatever destiny was in store. Iam glided on the water in the tow of this force within his mouth. Then Iam saw an outline against the night sky. It was that beast he had seen earlier in the day! Tall and slender with two appendages, one short and stubby and the other ending in a long, very slender and flexible pole. Somehow whatever was set in his mouth was attached to this beast. The beast reached down with a huge open mouth at the end of the appendage which Iam had not noticed before. Then Iam was lifted from his dear water by the beast. Starving for air but too tired to do anything about it, Iam felt the beast grip him around his mid-section. Then, another sharp pain in his mouth. But then, the pain started to recede. The imposter had been removed from his mouth. Then there was a bright flash of light. The type of flash that Iam had seen before, but never on a night like this. Before, those flashes always came on cloudy, stormy nights. But not this time, it had been clear. Regardless, there had been a flash. Then, the grip of the beast lessened as Iam realized he was being lowered back down into the water. He could breathe! He tried to breath in but was too weak. The strange beast slid his grip back to where his tail was. But it didn't matter, Iam was too weak to breathe, much less kick his tail to get free! But then Iam started moving. Back and forth in the water. What was happening? He was too tired to move, but he was moving. The water flowed over his gills. The oxygen rejuvenated his body. Iam tried to kick. It was weak and the beast held him firm. He continued to move back and forth in the stream. More oxygen. Iam waited. He felt stronger. He gave a strong kick but still the beast held him securely. Then, just as he finished the kick, the beast released his grip. Sensing his moment, Iam gave forth a burst of energy and quickly darted away from his captor. He was free! Iam darted for his bank. Back to the darkest reaches of the bank Iam cowered. He'd lost his appetite for the evening. Besides, his mouth was too sore to eat anyway. Maybe by morning he would he would feel up to moving again, but not yet. So Iam spent the rest of the night in the back of his undercut bank. What happened to him? He could not answer. But he was grateful to be back in his stream. (c) 1996, Andrew Nowlan Well Spent by Steve Trauthweintime lent to fishes rules currents, eddys, ripples and pools, time with hook and hair and tools and time spent lofting feathered jewels. The Ballad of Metolius Jim by Stuart BarclayNow, opening day is magic, they say for flyfisherfolk everywhere There's great preparation for that annual migration to arrive at that moment so rare Through the winter we schemed, and we planned and we dreamed till our hopes of perfection grew dim And we argued and fought, till we threw in our lot with a man called Metolius Jim He was an upstanding guy, with piercing grey eyes much celebrated in story and song >From his scalp to his crotcho, he exuded such macho that we knew that we couldn't go wrong So with much trepidation, and no small desperation we plied him with women and gin And we asked him to show where the trophy trout go "Just leave it to me, boys!" said Jim "I know of a stream that's unspoiled and pristine It makes strong men slather and quiver If you swear on your souls my secret to hold, we'll go to the Metolius River It's fished by so few, and those rare souls who do know its secrets are grizzled and old Ant they take to their graves the secret that's saved like King Salomon's mines and their gold!" Now Stonefly Don's self control was near gone Wingless Easle could scarce hold his bowels We lapped up this news like 20 year old booze "My God! Take us with you!" we howled We went broke buying tackle, waders and hackle Our spouses indulgence wore thin We led tortured lives till that moment arrived, and..."Follow me!" said Metolius Jim We wanted to race, but at sub-legal pace his driving was driving us mad We shrieked and we drooled, but he ne'er lost his cool My God! What control the man had! The hours crawled by, a grown man could cry from suspense of following him We were all at wits end, till we rounded a bend and..."This is it!" said Metolius Jim As we grew near, we began to hear a strange whistling, rushing sound So Barclay went on with Stonefly Don to see what was to be found They returned at long last with faces aghast They looked like they'd just lost their lunch They said, "This will sound weird, but those are fly lines you hear A thousand all airborne at once! They're shoulder to shoulder, there's two to a boulder They're churning the water to foam They're lined up from the banks in close-order ranks They rival the legions of Rome! They jostle and press like madmen obsessed, to clean out the best looking holes The campgrounds are jammed with their campers and vans A horrible sight to behold!" Metolius Jim was stricken and grim A weak smile came over his face He said, "Boys it would seem by the look of this stream a few more have learned of this place!" We did try some fishing, wretchedly wishing to wrest a few strikes from the mob But no trout would rise 'neath the blizzard of flies that drifted in festoons and gobs Jim said, "From you bitching, I can tell that the fishing didn't turn out as well as you thought But there's a place we can be, KNOWN ONLY TO ME, where twenty pound bass can be caught!" Now flyfisherfolk may forget opening day as age makes their memory grow dim But we haven't yet, nor will we forget That bastard, Metolius Jim! Pisces, Opus 1 by Mike LIvingstonPines weep mist like the slow draw of a well-rosined bow. Dulcimer drops dance, bead a skin-taught pane, beneath reeds humming in the warm breath of morning. Chrome-glazed backs gently roll tune the thin membrane. Soul pangs escape banks, worlds. Notes take structure, unfurled, warning of the strike, a bamboo wand.